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Channel Surfing: FX Renews "Sons of Anarchy," BBC Renews "Merlin," BBC America Sets "Doctor Who" Special, "True Blood" Lures Two, and More

Welcome to your Thursday morning television briefing.

On the heels of Tuesday night's second season finale, FX has ordered a third season of Kurt Sutter's biker drama Sons of Anarchy, with thirteen episodes on order for September 2010. Additionally, the cabler has signed a two-year deal with Sutter that will keep him on board Sons of Anarchy as the showrunner/executive producer. "This has been a wonderful ride and we're just getting started," said Sutter in a statement. "I'm really proud of the work by our incredible cast and crew. The response this season from the fans and critics has been terrific and I can't wait to get back to the writer's room and start on season three." (via press release)

BBC One has commissioned a third season of Shine Television-produced medieval drama Merlin. "With its mix of magic, adventure and humour Merlin is perfect Saturday-evening family television, and we are thrilled that Shine Television will be creating a new series for BBC One," said Controller, Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson. "I'm looking forward to seeing what adventures our popular young wizard, and his friends in Camelot, will go on in series three." (BBC)

BBC America has announced that it will air Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part Two on Saturday, January 2, a day after the BBC One broadcast. Special marks David Tennant's final appearance as the Tenth Doctor. (via Twitter)

Two more actors have landed recurring roles on Season Three of HBO's True Blood. Theo Alexander (Chuck) will play Talbot, described as the "intensely beautiful" vampiric boyfriend of the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare), while Grant Bowler (Ugly Betty) will play werewolf Coot, described as "the menacing ringleader of a biker gang." (Hollywood Reporter's The Live Feed)

It's official: Comcast and GE have announced that they have reached a deal on NBC Universal, with Comcast controlling a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal in a joint venture with General Electric. Jeff Zucker will head up the new joint venture and will report to Steve Burke, Comcast's COO. Broadcasting & Cable's Claire Atkinson has a fantastic breakdown of the key elements of the transaction between the two entities. (Broadcasting & Cable)

Over at The Wrap, Josef Adalian has created an insightful and intelligent list of "Five Things Comcast Must Do to Save NBC," now that the deal between Comcast and General Electric has been officially closed, pending federal approval. "The once-proud Peacock in recent years has become the poster child for those who believe the network TV business model is just a few heartbeats from extinction," writes Adalian. "Before today's announcement, more than a few pundits wondered aloud whether you might simply chuck NBC altogether. But let's assume you're not ready to give up on the notion of broadcasting. Let's imagine you still think there's value in owning a brand with 70 years of history and entry into just about every home in America." (The Wrap's TVMoJoe)

HBO is developing drama project Honest, about a man who goes on the run, from writer/executive producer Eric Simonson (Hamlet) and executive producers Carolyn Strauss and Dan Halsted. (Variety)

Pilot casting alert! Abraham Benrubi, Celia Weston and DJ Qualls have been cast opposite Jason Lee in TNT drama pilot Delta Blues, from executive producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Weston will play the mother of Lee's cop/Elvis impersonator Dwight; Qualls will play Dwight's protege on the Memphis police force; Benrubi will play Sgt. J.C. Lightfoot, described as a "6-foot-5 Caucasian man with a braided ponytail who is only one-eighth Chickasaw but lives by his tribe's wisdom and dispenses sage quotations to the rest of the Memphis detectives." (Hollywood Reporter)

Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello talks to Cougar Town co-creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence about the upcoming guest appearance by Courteney Cox's former Friends co-star Lisa Kudrow in the January 6th episode. "They didn’t want to play friends,” Lawrence told Ausiello. "She plays a dermatologist who is a horrible, horrible person, but [Cox] goes to her because she’s the best. The [sight] of them playing people who dislike each other intensely was very funny for me to watch." (Entertainment Weekly's Ausiello Files)

FOX has given a pilot order to an untitled sketch comedy series (which is also being referred to as Inside Jokes) from Merv Griffin Entertainment and executive producer Kevin Connolly (Entourage). Pilot, which is shooting this week, will be hosted by Cameron Bender and feature Mary Scheer, Jay Phillips, Carrie Wiita, Paul Schackman, and Lauren Rose Lewis. (Hollywood Reporter)

MTV has announced that it has renewed The Hills for a sixth season (despite plummeting ratings following the departure of Lauren Conrad) and The City for a second season. (Variety)

UK fans of True Blood are in luck as FX has picked up Season Two of HBO's vampire drama series and will launch the second season in February. (Digital Spy)

Kevin Pollak has been named the host of FOX's upcoming reality competition series Our Little Genius, which launches Wednesday, January 13th before moving to its regular timeslot of Tuesdays at 9 pm ET/PT the following week. "I've been a fan of Kevin Pollak's work for many years. His incredible humor, intelligence and quick wit are all perfect additions to an incredibly dynamic format," said executive producer Mark Burnett. "He instinctively knows when to add seriousness and when to add humor. I am so glad he has joined the Our Little Genius team." (via press release)

E1 Entertainment will join forces with Company Pictures co-produce the US version of British teen drama Skins, which has a pilot pickup at MTV. (Broadcast)

CBS Television Distribution has sold daytime talk show Swift Justice With Nancy Grace into daily syndication and has cleared the programming in nearly all 50 top markets. Series, which will be stripped as back-to-back half-hour installments, will debut in fall 2010. (Hollywood Reporter)

Investigation Discovery has renewed On the Case With Paula Zahn for a second season. (Variety)

NBC Universal Television business affairs executive Rick Olshansky has departed the company in a move said to be unrelated to the Comcast/GE deal, with Variety's Michael Schneider indicating that he is leaving "as much of his oversight has been taken over by NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios chairman Marc Graboff." (Variety)

Stay tuned.

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